Deep Dive Review: ACE Personal Training Certification
6 minute read

Deep Dive Review: ACE Personal Training Certification

If you’re interested in attaining a personal training certification and have started your research, you might’ve come to this conclusion: there are many different types of certifications and a lot of opinions on each of them. One of the certifications you may have stumbled upon is the American Council of Exercise (ACE) certification. To make your search a little bit easier to navigate, we’re breaking down this certification into its background, prerequisites, exam content, associated costs and much more. Once you’re finished reading, you should have all you need to make a decision on whether this is the certification for you. Ready? Let’s get started.

ACE Background

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) was founded in 1985 and became one of the first agencies to be accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Within the industry, the NCCA is held in high regard and thought of as one of the top accrediting agencies. Under the umbrella of ACE, you can earn other certifications such as ACE Group Fitness Instructor, Health Coach Certification and Medical Exercise specialist.

ACE boasts 50,000 (and climbing) certified individuals which is no easy feat. If you’re looking for a comparison, you can think of ACE as being in the same tier as NASM or NSCA.

Outside of ACE’s personal training certification, they also offer certifications for group fitness, health coaching and medical exercise.

As a nonprofit organization, the primary mission of ACE is to “get people moving” and they also hope to decrease the number of diseases that are related to sedentary lifestyles by 2035 by providing robust education to personal trainers and health enthusiasts. For an organization that’s as expansive as ACE, it’s helpful to truly know what they’re all about. The organization’s core values include

  • Honesty & Integrity
  • Ingenuity & Passion
  • Collaboration & Connection
  • Access & Inclusiveness
  • Continuous Learning & Development

While there are many aspects to consider when deciding on a personal training certification to pursue, taking a moment to look at an organization’s core values can help you get to know what they’re all about and if their values align with your own. If they do, then it might be something worth pursuing and researching further.

Integrated Fitness Training Model

If you decide to take the ACE certification program, you will learn using the integrated training model which helps trainers understand how to tailor fitness programs to their clients’ specific needs. Within the integrated fitness training model, there are four phases. Here’s a breakdown of each phase:

  • First Phase: focuses on stability and mobility training as well as aerobic-based training
  • Second Phase: teaches movement training and aerobic efficiency training
  • Third Phase: focuses on load training and anaerobic endurance training
  • Fourth Phase: concentrates on performance training and anaerobic power training

But your learning of these phases doesn’t just end at their definitions. You’ll also learn function, health, fitness and performance tactics as they relate to each of the phases. Other important parts of this model include rapport, behavioral change, and client communication. It’s important to note the value that ACE puts on equipping their trainers with how to create a connection with their clients while also encouraging them to lead a healthy lifestyle.

ACE Prerequisites

So, let’s get down to what it will ultimately take for you to take the ACE certification exam. Before you invest any time or money into this, you should know if you’re eligible and have met the prerequisites needed to complete the test. Here’s a brief summary of what requirements you need to meet if you want to take the ACE exam and become certified, you must

  • Be 18 years old or older
  • Have a high school diploma or GED equivalent
  • Be CPR/AED Certified
  • Have a government-issued ID

If you’re not quite 18 years old yet, use this time as a chance to study and prepare for the exam. During this waiting period, you can equip yourself with all of the right resources and study materials, so you’ll ace the exam when it comes time to take it.

ACE Exam Format and Content

The total allotted time for the ACE exam is three hours and it’s given on a computer-based format. The exam itself is made up of multiple-choice questions, encompassing 125 “scored” questions and 25 “experimental” ones.

The exam is graded on a scale of 200-800 and 500 is a passing grade. If you don’t pass the first time, don’t worry too much. You can retake the exam for $199, regardless of which ACE certification you’re trying to achieve. The only caveat here is that if you’re taking the exam internationally, it will be $299.

When it comes to the exam content, it is updated every five to seven years. This helps ensure that fitness professionals are gaining the most relevant and up to date information in their field. To help you prepare for the exam, each ACE exam has its own study guide which outlines “domains” and “task assessments.” The ACE website provides these for free-- you can download them here.

If you’re looking for more educational resources, the ACE personal training textbook covers the integrated fitness training model in detail and provides guidance on how to adjust postures and exercises that will help you meet your clients’ individual needs and requirements.

ACE Study Plans and Cost

Once you decide to take the ACE certification exam, you’ll need to decide on a study program that best aligns with your lifestyle. The plus-study certification program is $299 and would be best for someone who is committed to going the extra mile in their preparation for the exam. Some of the benefits include that you can pay with a 4-time interest free payment plan, use an online guide called ACE academy elite, receive a hardcopy and soft-copy of two ACE textbooks, access to a study companion that helps you break down key concepts in the textbook and much more.

The basic study program is $199 and has significantly fewer study materials but comes at a much lower price. With this package, you’ll receive a digital version of the ACE textbooks and study companion, a 3-time interest free payment plan, practice exam questions and access to webinars.

Both of these options provide a good amount of study materials and should be more than enough for you to feel prepared for the exam when it comes time to take it. Typically, you’ll need to spend 80-100 hours over 3-4 months to prepare and pass the exam.

Maintaining Your ACE Certification

Once you’ve invested your time and money into preparing for this exam, you’ll be all set to take it! If you pass, the work doesn’t stop here–– and it shouldn’t, right? As a professional, you should always be striving to gain more knowledge and evolve as a trainer.

To ensure that you’re staying up to date with the industry knowledge and information specific to the ACE, you will need to participate in continuing education in order to remain certified. The ACE requires certified trainers to become recertified every two years and obtain 2.0 continuing education of credits. This comes down to about 20 hours of continuing education credits or about 10 hours per year. You can find continuing education directly through ACE on their website.

The ACE certification allows you to be flexible in your career choices–– you can work as a freelance personal trainer or work in a standard full-time position at a job. Plus, if you decide to attain other ACE certifications, this just adds to your credibility and even makes you more marketable to gyms.

Your Next Steps with the ACE Certification

There are a lot of highly regarded and accredited personal training certifications out there, and the ACE certification is certainly at the top of the list. Based on the information above, you should have a good sense of whether this certification is the one for you. Before investing a lot of time and money into studying and registering for an exam, it’s always important to do thorough research. If you’re passionate about helping people along their fitness journey and committed to putting the integrated fitness training model to use, the ACE certification might just be the best option for you!

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